Tapeworm infestation – what are the symptoms and how is it treated?

A tapeworm is a type of flat, segmented worm that lives in the intestines of some animals. They can become infected while grazing or if they drink from contaminated water.

In humans, the main source of infection is eating undercooked meat. Although tapeworms in humans are usually easily treated, sometimes this parasite can cause serious, even life-threatening problems!

That is why it is very important to know what the symptoms are and how exactly to protect your family.


Six types of flatworms are known to pose a potential threat to humans. They are usually known among the population by the name they carry depending on their source – e.g. dog tapeworm /the most common in Bulgaria/pig tapeworm /not found in Bulgaria for 40 years/, beef tapeworm, fish tapeworm and others.

Flatworms have three stages in their life – egg, larva and adult worm, which in turn reproduces and lays eggs. Since the larvae can easily reach the muscles of their host and settle there, people can easily become infected by eating infected meat if it is not properly heat-treated.

It is also possible for a person to become infected by consuming products processed by a parasitic person. Since the tapeworm is transmitted through the intestines, people who use the toilet and do not wash their hands after wiping can be a source of infection and make other people sick in this way.


Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, weakness, diarrhea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite or excessive appetite, fatigue, weight loss, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and more.

However, the danger is that very often the tapeworm does not cause any symptoms. In such a case, the only way to detect a signal that the person is infected is to detect parts of worms in the feces.

In rare cases, tapeworm can cause very serious complications, for example intestinal obstruction. If the eggs of the pig tapeworm are ingested, they can reach the liver, eyes, brain and other parts of the body and thus cause very serious damage. Such a situation could be potentially life-threatening.

Treatment of tapeworms

If you suspect that you have a tapeworm infection, you should consult your doctor immediately. Because there are different types of worms and tapeworms that can infect humans, determining the type of tapeworm may require a fecal sample.

If no worms are found in the stool, your doctor may order a blood test to check for antibodies produced to fight the infection.

In more serious cases, your doctor may use imaging studies, such as a CT scan or an MRI, to check for damage in the body outside the digestive tract. Depending on the type of tapeworm you have, the length of treatment may vary.

Medications will kill the tapeworms. The dead tapeworms are then dissolved or flushed out of the body through bowel movements. If the worms are large, there may be cramping as they pass and are expelled.

Your doctor will check your stool samples again one and three months after you finish treatment. When the infection is spread only in the intestines, with appropriate treatment you will get rid of them the first time in more than 95% of cases.

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